Ph.D. in Sociology

Expand your expertise. Continue your career in sociology by specializing in one of our six areas of focus. Prepare for a career in academia, research or industry.

Application Instructions

Ph.D. in Sociology

For students who wish to become critical analysts of social problems, NC State's graduate program in sociology offers training that provides preparation for academic, research and applied careers. The 72-credit hour doctoral program is characterized by an intellectually stimulating and academically rigorous, yet supportive, environment.

With a low graduate student-faculty ratio, the department offers students the opportunity to work closely with a dynamic, high-quality research-oriented faculty who have a wide range of interests. We invite students to collaborate with faculty members on theoretical and empirical research. Students and faculty often work with community groups and government agencies to promote progressive social change.

 Students also benefit from:

  • A teacher training program
  • Opportunities to teach a variety of undergraduate courses
  • Funding for travel to professional meetings
  • Close interaction with faculty in colloquia and seminars

Established in 1923, we are a department of outstanding accomplishments and great potential. Faculty and graduate students work hard and enjoy the camaraderie of a closely-knit culture. The graduate program trains excellent researchers and teachers and places them in superlative jobs, both academic and non-academic. 

All Degrees Awarded, from 1921Explore Courses and Curriculum

Areas of Specialization

Doctoral students select two areas of specialization. They must complete at least three courses in each area and a preliminary examination in one of them. Our designated areas of specialization are listed below. 

First Ph.D. awarded in 1926

Our department features the oldest doctoral program in the South and is one of the largest in the nation.

Application Instructions

The Sociology Program offers a Ph.D, with several areas of focus available, in a department of outstanding accomplishments and great potential. Our faculty have a wide range of interests, including crime, law and social control; family and life course; food and environment; inequality: class, race, and gender; sociolinguistics; and work and the global economy. Last year, we had 72 applicants and admitted 20 students. For information on the application process, as well as upcoming visitation dates, read the information below. 

A completed application includes transcripts, GRE scores, three letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and a writing sample. The Admissions Committee is unable to consider incomplete applications. 

Transcripts: You will need to upload unofficial transcripts of all your academic course work since high school, including each higher education institution you have attended. You only need to send official transcripts to the Graduate School if you are admitted.

Graduate Record Examination (GRE): We require the GRE. We do not have a cut-off point, although we feel most comfortable with combined verbal plus quantitative scores above 300 (roughly corresponding to 110 or so on the “old” GRE scale). If your scores are not high, we may still admit you if other parts of your application are strong. The university’s code when submitting scores is 5496.

Letters of Recommendation: We require three letters of recommendation. The online process includes a form for your references to use. This form only has a small space for comments. Please ask your references to add a letter in which they provide more detail. Specifics about their experience with you are particularly informative. If you are not currently in school, please take care in selecting people to write these letters, as we need to know how you are likely to perform in an academic setting. 

Personal Statement: This is usually a relatively brief statement of about two pages. We are especially interested to know how graduate training in sociology fits into your professional and intellectual goals and plans. Please indicate in your statement which of our program specializations you are most interested in and why. 

Writing Sample: We pay very careful attention to the example of your writing that you submit. We look for organization, use of evidence, logic of argument, and quality of analysis. Typical submissions include course papers and senior thesis chapters. We strongly prefer writing samples of approximately 15-25 pages in length. If you would like us to read part of a large work, you could attach an explanation of how the part relates to the whole. 

The deadline for Fall admissions is January 1, with all supporting material so that the review committee can begin the review process in mid-January. We will ONLY accept materials submitted electronically. Please note that our program accepts full-and part-time students to begin their studies during the Fall semester only. We do not accept applications for Spring admissions.

The Graduate School requires payment of a $75 application fee ($85 USD for International applicants). The Graduate School may waive the application fee based upon the applicant’s need and to achieve greater diversity for certain underrepresented groups. In requesting this waiver, you will need to contact the Graduate School (see contact information below).

To apply you may complete an on-line application for admission to graduate school. If you do the form electronically, however, you must still mail in your check for the application fee (currently $85.00 in U.S. currency drawn from a U.S. bank or from an international bank with a U.S. affiliate) and other parts of the application, enumerated below.

The online application can be accessed here.

An application for admission to our program must also include: 

  • Transcripts of al undergraduate and graduate studies
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores for the general tests
  • TOEFL scores for applicants who are not native English speakers. You can view our English Proficiency Requirements for more information.
  • Three letters of recommendation (we will be especially interested in reading the recommendation of a social scientist who can assess your promise as a social scientist).
  • A sample of your writing, such as an academic paper you have written.
  • A personal statement of the relationship of graduate training in sociology in our department for your long term interests, including your professional career intentions. 

After admission, official transcripts should be sent to:  
The Graduate School
North Carolina State University
1020 Main Campus Drive,
Room 2300A
Campus Box 7102
Raleigh, NC 27695-7102

If you cannot upload electronic recommendation letters, please send them to the Graduate School at:  graduate_applications@ncsu.edu 

Start the Application Process

Financial Assistance

Teaching assistantships are available on a competitive basis through the Graduate School’s Graduate Student Support Plan (GSSP). Students are appointed to assistantships with the expectation of reappointment, assuming normal progress, for a period of two years. Assistantships in the department are administered under general Graduate School rules for Financial Support. Assistantships provide tuition coverage for Fall and Spring, health insurance for the year, and a biweekly stipend from August to May.  Special funds for outstanding students and several types of minority scholarships are awarded by the Graduate School. 

In addition to teaching assistantships, our department typically allocates a fixed amount per graduate student per year (budget permiting) to support travel, such as to a professional meeting or conference.

More info:

Our support package for funded students is very competitive with those offered by other doctoral programs.   Assuming normal progress to degree, the packages are good for five years for students entering with a bachelor's degree (four years for students entering with a master's degree in sociology).  The support package includes:

  • Graduate assistantships that pay $15,200 (nine-month appointment) for students without a master's degree in sociology and $16,300 for students with a master's degree in sociology.  These assistantships have a 20 hour/week work obligation.  Students with a master's degree often teach their own courses; students without a master's degree generally assist faculty with their courses and research.
  • Full tuition remission (both in-state and out-of-state).  Students are responsible for their own fees.
  • Fully-paid health insurance.
  • Office space in the recently renovated 1911 Building.  Every funded student has his/her own desk and computer.
  • Full access to departmental and college computer networks, including most popular analytical packages (SAS, SPSS, Stata, Amos, Lisrel, HLM, Atlas TI, etc.)
  • Support for travel to professional conferences

Department Funds: 

Usually, the department allocates a fixed amount per year per enrolled graduate student to support travel to a professional meeting, budget permitting. In most years we are able to allocate $300 - $400. The priority for these funds goes to students presenting their research at a meeting. A second priority is students on the meeting program participating in another way, for example, service on a committee at the meeting.

To actually request funding, you need to complete a travel authorization form, which is done in the Travel Center in MyPackPortal. The form asks you to estimate costs, some of which, unfortunately, the allocation will probably not cover. You can include:

  • meeting registration
  • plane or train fare
  • mileage if you drive your own car at current rates
  • ground transportation costs, such as bus from the airport to the hotel
  • hotel
  • meals, but the rules differ according to whether you stay overnight or not. On same day trips, you cannot claim breakfast or lunch; you can claim dinner, but only if you return after 8 pm. On overnight trips, you can claim meals for dinner. Note that on the days of departure and return, you can only claim meals for times you could not reasonable eat at home. To claim breakfast, you must depart by 6 am; for lunch, you must depart by 10 am and return after 2 pm; for dinner, you must depart by 4 pm and not return before 8 pm.

Be sure to get and save receipts for meeting registration, plane or train fare, expensive ground transportation, and hotel. You don't need receipts for meals. When you get return, log into the Travel Center and create a reimbursement for the authorization, which should be visible in the “Recent Travel” section of the page. At this point, you can report actual expenses, even if they are higher than the estimates on your authorization. The university requires your original receipts; scan them to your computer or to your email and upload them to the reimbursement. Please see for Carletta Smith in the main office (334) assistance scanning to email. 

The department may use its own funds to sponsor a van or two to regional meetings lots of graduate students are attending. This is a great way to save your allocation for other expenses.

Grant Funds

If a grant is paying for your travel, you may have a larger allocation than the department gives you, but the procedure for getting authorization to travel and requesting reimbursement afterwards is basically the same.

Graduate Student Association Funds

The University Graduate Student Association has travel funds to subsidize participation in professional meetings. A student may apply for these funds once during a degree program. This means someone getting, first, a master's and, then, a doctoral degree here can apply twice. The maximum each time is $1,500. The application procedure must be followed quite carefully. The travel grants program, including application procedure, is described on the internet at: https://ugsa.ncsu.edu/conference-award/.

The Sociology Graduate Student Association also makes a small amount of support available to assist its members with with the costs of professional travel. Applicants for these funds must have already paid their SGSA dues for the year at the time of their application. Up to $50 per year (depending on the availability of funds) may be allocated to each student who is presenting a paper or taking part in a panel or roundtable discussion. 

Please Note: 

  1. Tuition and health insurance benefits come from the university’s Graduate Student Support Plan
  2. Total credits at end of year
  3. Notes: HI = health insurance coverage paid; VI = visiting instructor
  4. All stipend values are current rates and are subject to change
  • A student who enters without a master’s degree in sociology or related field: 
YearDegree ProgramTotal Credits Expected ActivitiesTA (VI) assignmentCurrent Stipend Tuition/HI Benefits Rules and Procedures
1masters18coursesTA: assist$15,200yesappointments renewable for a total of five years, assuming normal progress
2masters36courses, thesisTA: assist or 300L$15,200yesmust complete all requirements for the master's degree during the 5th semester
3doctoral54courses, thesis, prelimsTA: assist or teach 1-1$16,300yes
4doctoral72prelims, dissertation proposalTA: teach 1-1$16,300yesShould be ABD before end of this year
5doctoral78dissertationTA: teach 1-1$16,300yesShould complete all requirements before end of this year



$4,150 per coursenoPriority given to students who are ABD at end of previous year

  • A student who enters our doctoral program with a master’s degree in sociology or related field.

YearDegree ProgramTotal CreditsExpected ActivitiesTA (VI) AssignmentCurrentStipendTuition/HI BenefitsRules and Procedures
1doctoral36 (incl 18 tran)coursesTA or assist: teach 1-1$16,300yesappointments renewable for a total of four years, assuming normal progress
2doctoral54coursesTA: teach 1-1$16,300yes
3doctoral72courses, prelimsTA: teach 1-1$16,300yes
4doctoral78prelims, dissertation proposalTA: teach 1-1$16,300yesShould be ABD before end of this year
5doctoral 84dissertation



$4,150 per coursenoPriority given to students who are ABD at end of previous year

Sociology Graduate Student Association (SGSA)

A student-centered organization promoting academic and professional success.

Visit our home page

Courses and Curriculum

Core areas of the curriculum are theory and methods/analysis. Offerings are: 


  • SOC 701 Classical Theory
  • SOC 702 Contemporary Theory
  • SOC 703 Theory Construction
  • SOC 704 Feminist Thought
  • SOC 508 Social Organization
  • SOC 746 Sociological Social Psychology


  • SOC 713 Introductory Quantitative Analysis
  • SOC 707 Quantitative Sociological Analysis
  • SOC 708 Advanced Quantitative Analysis
  • SOC 711 Research Methods
  • SOC 715 Qualitative Analysis
  • SOC 791Q Advanced Qualitative Analysis

Master's students must take and pass SOC 701, SOC 713, and SOC 711. Doctoral students must earn a grade of "B" or higher in SOC 701, SOC 713, SOC 707, and SOC 711. Doctoral students must complete the core curriculum with a grade of "B" or higher in two theory electives and two methods/analysis electives. 

Areas of Specialization

Doctoral students select one area of specialization. They must complete at least three courses in that area and a preliminary examination. Students are also encouraged to specialize in a secondary area. 

Explore Areas of Specialization

Preliminary Exam Checklist

The Master of Science in Sociology (M.S.):

This program requires 30 semester credit hours of course work and a research thesis. Students entering without a master's degree in sociology and planning to continue in our doctoral program typically earn the M.S. degree en route to the Ph.D. We do not admit students who plan to end their graduate studies at the M.S.

Course Offerings

Graduate courses in core areas of theory and methods/analysis are offered regularly each year. Substantive courses in specialty areas rotate on a two-year sequence. 

For the recommended plans of study, please see the following 3-page outline, which includes our recommendations for students entering with a Bachelor’s degree, for sociolinguistics students, and for students entering with a Master’s degree. 

Recommended Plans of Study

Note: scheduling of substantive courses will affect the timing of specific courses and comprehensive written examinations.  See the current course rotation for details.

Suggested plan of study for students entering with a master's degree in sociology assumes that the student will be able to waive requirements for SOC711, SOC701, and SOC713.  Decisions about these waivers are done on a case-by-case basis. Consult the Graduate Manual (Section 13.5) for information about course waivers.

The program will adhere to this rotation as closely as possible; however, courses with low enrollment are subject to cancellation, and course offerings are subject to staff availability and student demand. 

For the full course rotation, please refer to the following Google spreadsheet. Note: There are separate tabs at the bottom for both our core course offerings and our substantive course offerings. 

Course Rotation (Fall 16 – Spring 20)

Special Topics Courses: 

SOC791D     Contemporary Debates in Food & Environment
SOC791E     Environmental Sociology
SOC791F     Families, Work, & Inequality
SOC791G    Gender and Crime
SOC791M    Marxist Approaches to Social Theory
SOC791N    Global Markets
SOC791P    Food
SOC791Q    Advanced Qualitative Methods
SOC791V    Violence and Terrorism


     SOC 601  Proseminar*

SOC 610  Special Topics in Sociology

SOC 701  Classical Sociological Theory*

SOC 702  Contemporary Sociological Theory

SOC 703  Theory Construction

SOC 704  Feminist Thought

SOC 707  Quantitative Sociological Analysis*

SOC 708  Advanced Sociological Analysis

SOC 710  Teaching Sociology

SOC 711  Research Methods in Sociology*

SOC712   Advanced Survey Methods

SOC 713  Applied Research*

SOC 715  Qualitative Sociological Methods and Analysis

SOC 721  Deviant Behavior

SOC 722  Social Control

SOC 723  Research in Crime and Deviance

SOC 724  Crime and Collective Action

SOC 727  Comparative Societies

SOC 728  Social Systems and Planned Change

SOC 731  Survey of Family Sociology

SOC 732  Contemporary Family Theory & Research

SOC 736  Social Stratification

SOC 737  Sociology of Gender

SOC 738  Racial & Ethnic Inequality

SOC 739  Social Psychology of Inequality

SOC 746  Sociological Social Psychology

SOC 752  Work and Industry

SOC 753  Formal Organizations

SOC 754  Economic Sociology

SOC 810  Special Topics

* courses required for PhD in Sociology.

Frequently Asked Questions

Assistantships and the Graduate Student Support Plan's Tuition and Health Insurance Benefits

Only students who hold teaching assistantships, research assistantships, or fellowships can qualify for insurance under the Graduate Student Support Plan. If they do not qualify for the Graduate Student Support Plan, the option would be for them to get the health insurance offered to all registered students, which students must pay for themselves. Students eligible for insurance under GSSP would have to pay for coverage for their dependents. Questions on this should be referred to Student Blue, the division of BCBS that administers the RA/TA Health Plan. 

A half-time TA or RA should not work elsewhere. In addition to the assistantship responsibilities, s/he is a full-time student. This leaves no time for other work either in or outside the university.

Maximum Enrollment Per Semester

A full graduate load cannot exceed 15 credit hours per semester, including audits. Half-time assistantships limit enrollment further to 9 credit hours per semester. A half-time assistant on a 9 month appointment cannot enroll for more than 18 hours during the 9 months. A half-time assistant on a 12 month appointment cannot enroll for more than 24 credits during the 12 months.

Applying Credit Hours From a Master's Program to a Doctoral Program

Up to 36 credit hours from a master's degree earned at NCSU may be applied to the 72 credit hour requirement for an NCSU doctoral degree. Up to 18 credit hours from a master's degree earned elsewhere may be applied to an NCSU doctoral degree. These limits apply whether the master's degree was in sociology or in another discipline. However, a number of NCSU master's program hours approaching 36 credit hours is much more likely to be approved for application to a sociology doctorate if the master's was also in sociology. Please note that a doctoral student on an assistantship who earned a master's at NCSU and who wants to use more than 18 credit hours from the master's in the doctorate must be a full-time student for the first six semesters of the doctorate, even though the total credit hours will then exceed 72. Finally, up to nine hours of post-baccalaureate studies (PBS) may be applied to an NCSU doctoral degree (Dean Robert Sowell, September 8, 1998).

Our department must accept the master's or PBS courses as appropriate for our doctoral program. Departmental acceptance is signalled by approval of the doctoral plan of work, which must be signed, first, by the advisory committee members and, then, by the Director of Graduate Programs. The student who wishes to apply either courses from other universities or non-sociology courses at NCSU should have syllabi to show to NCSU sociology faculty asked for their approval. NCSU courses taken in a master's program or PBS should be included on the doctoral plan of work, which should total at least 72 hours. If the master's was taken elsewhere, the NCSU doctoral plan of work must include at least 54 credit hours. (Dean Robert Sowell, September 8, 1998)


Preliminary Exam Checklist

Use the following checklist to assist you in being prepared for the preliminary exam.

  • When is the exam scheduled?
  • Who are the other students planning to take the same exam at the same time?
  • Who are the faculty members on the exam committee?
  • Read the departmental prelim policy.
  • Collect past copies of exams from the Graduate Student Services Coordinator.
  • Talk to students who have passed the exam recently about their experiences.
  • Will you study alone or in a group?
  • Where will you study? Home, office, library, elsewhere? Make a choice that will enhance your studying.
  • Map out a strategy for study by weeks and days. Plan library research and copying, reading, thinking and writing time.
  • Set aside a protected part of the day exclusively for prelim study – even if it is only for a couple of hours, make it sacred time that cannot be used for any other activities.
  • Talk to all the faculty members on the committee regularly – meet with them to learn their expectations and to ask questions.
  • Review general sociology and specialty journals over the last 10 years.
  • Do not read all of the articles – get a sense of what has been happening in the literature over the period – read the most important articles.
  • Locate the classics in the area.
  • Find the major books in the area.
  • Make up a reading list and have exam committee members critique it for you. Secondary sources have little place on the list.
  • Write practice prelim questions under test conditions. Ask faculty to critique them.
  • Collect materials you will need during the exam. Bring plenty of paper, pencils or pens, even if you plan to use the computer. A drink and some snacks will keep you going during the exam.
  • Stop studying by 4 p.m. Do something you enjoy for the rest of the day!
  • Take your exam and PASS!!!!!